ROME – After the meeting between Pope Francis and President Trump galvanized audiences worldwide, the Vatican welcomed on Monday May 29 the widely popular and social-media favorite Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
During the 36-minute encounter between the pope and the young prime minister, they discussed a wide array of issues from relations between the Catholic Church and indigenous people in Canada to religious freedom.
As is the custom the two exchanged gifts, with Trudeau presenting the pope with a rare edition of the book in six volumes ‘Relations de Jesuits du Canada’ and a vocabulary written by the Jesuits. Pope Francis presented the Canadian prime minister with a complete collection of his works, as he had done with President Trump less than a week ago, and a medal marking the fourth year of the pontificate.
Trudeau took his country and then the Internet by storm with his boyish smile and progressive policies. His diverse cabinet that easily resembles a Benetton ad and his pro-migrant stance has led many publications to name Trudeau the anti-Trump.
Through our extensive coverage of the Trump/Pope summit at Crux we have listed the many ways that the U.S. president and the Argentinian pope are similar and at odds, so what are the points of encounter between Pope Francis and the Anti-Trump?
Trudeau has made climate change and the environment an important point of his campaign as well as fostering relations between indigenous people in Canada and the government.
For a pope who has been very outspoken about the importance of caring for creation, the main theme of his encyclical Laudato Si, and has brought attention time and time again to the peripheries and the marginalized, Trudeau’s stance on these issues is very congenial.
Trudeau was also very outspoken on welcoming migrants in Canada at a time when over the border Trump was receiving backlash for his widely disputed travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries. Obviously the pope leans closer to Trudeau than Trump when it comes to migrants.
Unlike Trump, Trudeau is not a first-timer at the Vatican. He visited back in 1980 when his father Pierre Trudeau, then the prime minister of Canada, met with John Paul II. Like the Trump administration, the Canadians did their homework on common issues and concerns with the Vatican.
Sunday May 28, Trudeau and his wife visited the town of Amatrice in Italy, which was hit by 6.2 magnitude earthquake in 2016 killing hundreds and leaving many more homeless. Earlier this month Canada donated $2 million for relief in the area. Francis has also been very active in helping Italy though the tragedy by offering prayers, support and donations.
— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) May 28, 2017
The show of support and initiative by Trudeau represents a common ground and possibly a platform for future collaboration in the humanitarian fields.
The Canadians arrived with a very clear agenda of promoting Church-Canadian relations while also addressing the issue of the removal of young indigenous people from their families throughout the 20th century to place them in schools, including Catholic institutions, which the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called a “cultural genocide.”
More than 6,000 children died in the schools due to unfit conditions, and the Canadian commission asked the Catholic Church for an apology. Though Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI already expressed his sadness and criticized the Church’s behavior back in 2009, Trudeau spokesperson said the prime minister would seek a formal apology from the pontiff.
Francis has also been collecting information about the state of the faith in Canada from his visits with the country’s high-ranking prelates earlier this month. The ‘ad limina’ visits are informal conversations between the pope and bishops from various countries to discuss issues and concerns.
The Canadian bishops had pointed to the wide secularization of Canada, for which Trudeau’s election represents the cherry on top. After his meeting with the pope, Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, former president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, pointed to Quebec’s transformation from “one of the most homogenously Catholic societies to one of the most secularized societies.”
At the heart of this secularization is the question of euthanasia, which was decriminalized in 2016 by the Canadian Supreme Court. The prelates in the country have quickly moved to the next battle in order to guarantee freedom of conscience at a state level for doctors and nurses.
On the question of life, Trudeau and the pope could not be further apart – Trudeau has made the issue a litmus test for politicians belonging to his party – and it would not be surprising if the issue was discussed during the brief audience. The Canadian prime minister has also been very open about his support of LGBT issues.
But there is something else of interest that Trudeau could have brought to the table at the Vatican. Having returned from the G7 encounter in Taormina, Sicily, the Canadian prime minister was among the first to relate what happened to Francis.
On this question the “attention turned to various matters of an international nature, with special attention to the Middle East and areas of conflict,” reads the Vatican communiqué. Since the meeting was the first chance to see how well Trump plays with other key players in the global sandbox, it’s possible that Trudeau dropped a note on Trump, who made it his goal to put terrorism on top of the meeting’s agenda.
As always, the audience with the pope was followed by a meeting with the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, the de facto foreign minister of the Vatican.